Posted on December 21, 2019, by Bryan Zarpentine
The Detroit Tigers killed two birds with one stone on Saturday, in more ways than one. In a few short hours, the Tigers secured deals with both second baseman Jonathan Schoop and first baseman C.J. Cron. Both players agreed to a one-year deal worth $6.1 million. In addition to upgrading both positions on the right side of their infield, Detroit hurt the division-rival Twins, the team that both Schoop and Cron played for last season.
“Adding Jonathan and C.J. is a step towards accomplishing our offseason goal of making the ballclub better heading into the 2020 season,” Tigers GM Al Avila said in a statement. “We’re excited to have them join our organization, and we expect both players will inject significant power to our lineup. Defensively, C.J. will provide stability at first base, while Jonathan will lead the middle of our infield.”
Schoop spent the first five seasons of his career with the Orioles, slowly becoming a consistent contributor. His breakout season came in 2017 when he hit 32 home runs and posted an OPS of .841. However, he fell a little flat in 2018, especially after a midseason trade to the Brewers. Schoop took a one-year deal with the Twins last season, hitting .256 with 23 home runs and an OPS of .777 to help increase his value on the open market.
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He’ll now get a chance to be Detroit’s everyday second baseman in 2020. At the moment, Schoop will likely pair with Niko Goodrum, who is expected to be the team’s primary shortstop. While both have their shortcomings, a Goodrum-Schoop middle infield should be an upgrade over what the Tigers got last year from aging veterans Jordy Mercer and Josh Harrison, among several others.
“Heading into this offseason, Detroit was always on my radar as a team that I’d enjoy signing with,” Schoop said in a statement. “I look forward to playing every day and being a leader on this young team.”
As for Cron, he lands in Detroit after being non-tendered for the second straight offseason. In 2018, he hit a career-high 30 home runs with the Rays, although they let him go in part because of his rising salary. Cron landed with the Twins last winter and became a key figure in the most powerful lineup in baseball. Playing nearly every day outside of two stints on the IL with a thumb injury, Cron hit .253 with 25 home runs, producing an OPS of .780.
Cron should be an immediate upgrade over the first basemen the Tigers used in 2019, including John Hicks, Brandon Dixon, and Jeimer Candelario. None of those options provided much power, which is a void that Cron should be able to fill. With Miguel Cabrera primarily a DH at this point in his career, the Tigers needed to find a full-time first baseman, which is exactly what they will get from Cron.
For a team that had a league-high 114 losses in 2019, signing Schoop and Cron is a big step in the right direction. Ultimately, the Tigers will need their younger players to become regular contributors. In the meantime, Schoop and Cron will give them an immediate lift, particularly in the power department. The Tigers are still a long way from competing for a playoff spot. But signing two veterans to man the right side of their infield should move the needle in a meaningful way as they look to start moving up the pecking order in the AL Central next season.